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Keep Your Water Heater Running Longer and Working Harder With These Tips

August 20, 2019

A house doesn’t come with an easy, all-in-one manual, which means that many homeowners only deal with maintenance when serious and often costly problems develop. But before your water heater begins to wear out, there some easy and meaningful maintenance steps you can and should take every few years to improve its performance, and potentially extend its lifespan by many years. 

Step 1. Check the Pressure-Relief Valve

The Temperature Pressure Relief Valve is designed to let water out if the tank malfunctions and the pressure inside gets too high. If the valve breaks or is blocked, it could potentially lead to a tank explosion.

To test the valve, first shut off the power (if applicable) and the cold water supply, then put a bucket below the discharge pipe and lift the lever on the pressure release valve. Water should flow and then stop when you return the lever. If no water comes out or the flow doesn’t stop, the valve should be replaced.

Step 2. Check the Anode Rod

The Anode Rod is a long piece of metal designed to attract corrosive particles in your water, so that the rod gets worn down instead of the tank walls. When the rod wears down (every two to three years or so, depending on your water quality), it means you have limited time before your tank starts to rust out.

To check the anode rod you’ll need close the shutoff valve, turn on the hot water at a faucet to relieve pressure, and turn off the electricity or gas to the heater. Let out a few gallons of (HOT!) water, then loosen the rod’s head screw and remove it. Depending on the rod’s condition, this removal may not be possible without special equipment, so call service tech if needed. 

Once you have the rod free, check its condition and replace it if it’s less than ½” thick or coated with calcium.

Step 3. Remove Sediment 

Sediment can build up in the tank over time, which is bad for your water quality and the tank itself. Once you’ve checked the anode rod, you’ll want to drain the remaining dirty tank water into a bucket, and then open the cold-water supply valve to the tank to refill it and stir up any sediment that was missed. Drain the water again and repeat until the water coming out of the tank is clean and clear. Then close it up and turn the water and gas/electricity back on.

Step 4. Add Insulation

Insulating your pipes or water heater (if it’s an older unit and not factory insulated) greatly increases the system’s efficiency. Use 3/8” foam pipe insulation for the pipes (avoiding contact with the water heater flue) and use an insulating blanket, cut to size, along with foil tape to insulate the sides of the tank.

Your local West Michigan Godwin store supplies a wide range of water heater products, along with experienced staff members who would be happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction if you get stuck. Read through your water heater manual today and get the supplies you need to keep your water heater working like new!

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